Sailing the British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands, located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles are a group of islands consisting of approximately 50 islands and Cays. Situated in the Caribbean Sea, the BVI has a tropical climate with North Atlantic trade winds. It is these trade winds that make for a wonderful sailing experience.
The BVI is a sailors paradise due to its steady reliable winds averaging between 15-25 knots during the winter months. Due to the swell, the islands have long been a popular destination for surfing and because of the winds, kite boarding is becoming a lot more popular, especially in places such as Anegada. In the summer time the winds die down, the sea becomes calmer and the visibility becomes much greater making it a wonderful destination for scuba divers and water sport enthusiasts.
With year round warm weather, turquoise blue waters, white sandy beaches and spectacular scenery, the British Virgin Islands are arguably the most famous sailing destination in the world.
Navigation between the islands is fairly straightforward, with nice short trips, easy anchorages and plenty of moorings available in several of the protected bays.
Most people tend to do the usual anti clockwise circumnavigation of Tortola as this is, we have found, the most comfortable route. There are several beaches to explore, cocktails to be drunk at the beach bars, fantastic snorkeling spots, hikes and much more. Here are a few highlights from each island.
Also known as ‘Treasure Island’, Norman Island has some fantastic snorkeling spots at the Caves, Kelly’s Cove and the Indians. There are several moorings located in the ‘Bight’ where you can enjoy your evening dining at the restaurant ‘Pirates Bight’. Then head over to the infamous ‘Willy T’ where you can jump from the top deck and party late into the night. Beware for some wild shenanigans. If you want to stretch your legs and go for a walk, head on the trail up behind the restaurant. There are two ways to go once you reach the top. The views are beautiful and you can see most of the island from the helipad at the summit.
Unfortunately the resort is still under construction following hurricane Irma, however there are a couple of nice bays to anchor in. Great Harbor is a nice peaceful spot with some great snorkeling. It is also a good spot for paddle boarding/ water sports if the sea is calm. Deadman’s Bay is a great location to snorkel, spot turtles and relax on the white sandy beach.
On the South-Western tip you will find the Shipwreck of the RMS Rhone. The Royal Mail ship hit by a hurricane in 1867 is now a popular dive site and is definitely worth a visit. There isn’t really anything on Salt Island other than a couple of derelict buildings and a large salt pond, once an important resource for the island, but you can again hike to the top of the island and there are some incredible views of the Sir Francis Drake Channel.
Home to the Eco-friendly Cooper Island Beach Club resort. The resort consists of a bar and restaurant, a wonderful little coffee shop selling a range of coffees and pastries, a boutique store, a dive shop offering diving lessons and PADI courses, a rum bar selling over 280 different kinds of rum from all over the world and they even have their own microbrewery selling a range of craft beers.
Manchioneel Bay is a well protected bay and a marine park with a grassy seabed making it a great spot for turtle sightings. Another great spot to snorkel is the nearby Cistern Point with great visibility and an abundance of sea life.
Virgin Gorda also known as the ‘Fat Virgin’ named by Christopher Columbus, is the third largest island in the BVI. Famous for ‘the baths’ which is an incredible geological formation of huge granite boulders which line the white sandy beaches. Walk through the scenic trail and swim in the many rock pools in this picture perfect location. Explore the old copper mine ruins, hike to the Gorda peak for spectacular panoramic views of the neighbouring islands, relax on the golden beaches or stay in one of the many luxury resorts located on the island.
Located in the North Sound, Leverick Bay marina offers dock space, a bar and restaurant, a small pool and beachfront, water sports, a spa, both a boutique and grocery store and accommodation. If you are looking for some island nightlife, this is one place to be… From pizza and karaoke nights, beach BBQ’s, Moko Jumbies to the infamous Michael Bean’s pirate show. This is not one to be missed!
Oil Nut Bay
A new state of the art marina built in 2019. The marina village consists of their signature overwater restaurant, Nova, offering a suspended pool, overwater hammocks and day beds for pure relaxation whilst sipping on a selection of cocktails. Try one of their artisan coffees produced by Virgin Island coffee roasters or one of their many selections of pastries and breads. Replenish your provisions with gourmet foods and wines at the marina market, shop in the chic boutique or retreat to the library and browse the many books carefully curated by book lovers.
Unfortunately due to hurricane Irma in 2017, the Bitter End in the North Sound is still under re-construction but will hopefully be back with us soon!
Newly built for 2021 is the iconic Saba Rock restaurant, bar and hotel. This unique and stylish little island is a place of relaxation attracting sailors, adventurers, kite surfers and food lovers.
A small group of uninhabited islands located to the west of Virgin Gorda. Located in an area of the National Parks Trust, the waters surrounding these islands are great for snorkeling dependent on weather. George Dog offers a wonderful little beach and is a great stop for a spot of lunch.
Located 15 miles north of Virgin Gorda, Anegada is the second largest of the British Virgin Islands. Unlike it’s mountainous neighbouring islands being of volcanic origin, Anegada is unique in that it is formed from coral and limestone and was the cause of a tectonic plate shift. The island is extremely flat and low and surrounded by the largest barrier coral reef in the Caribbean and the fourth largest in the world.
There are several activities to do on Anegada from renting a car/scooter to explore the island, kite-surfing at Anegada Beach Club, go flamingo spotting, head out on the Conch Island boat trip or just relax on one of the many beautiful quiet, white sandy beaches. There are several bars and restaurants to dine on an evening and don’t forget to try the famous Anegada lobster!
An 850 acre privately owned island is a hidden gem with seven exquisite powder white beaches. Guana Island limits its guests to only 32 people at any one time which means there are usually only a handful of people using the beaches. White Bay beach, popular amongst the sailors, is located on the Leeward side of the island and equipped with several mooring balls. Explore some of the finest snorkeling and diving on three very distinct reefs home to 125 tropical reef fish. From Monkey Point to Muskmelon Bay’s Crab Cove, the rich blue waters are spectacular.
A luxury private island home to Scrub Island Resort, Marina and Spa. The 230 acre volcanic island elevates over 400 foot, with indigenous plant life, three private beaches, protective coves and scenic nature trails. The resort has restaurants, a pool, a spa and a great marina village. Even if you don’t stay at the resort you can always pay a visit and experience the island with a day pass.
Located on Beef Island and just next to the airport, this large anchorage offers ample mooring balls. Ashore you will find a variety of nice bars and restaurants including Trellis Bay Market bar and grill, a new sushi restaurant called Marche and Jeremy’s Kitchen. Check out Aragorn’s Studio, a cool artisan studio created by Aragorn Dick-Read. You will find art, prints and sculptures, many of which are on displayed on the beach. Every month there is a full moon party hosted on the beach consisting of live music, moko jumbies, BBQ and fun for all the family!
This quaint, 8 acre island is surrounded by a white sandy beach, a shallow emerald green lagoon and coral reefs which make for fantastic snorkeling.
Located on the northern coast of Tortola lies this beautiful sweeping long sandy beach set amongst dramatic hillsides and calm blue waters. Away from the crowds, this is a peaceful and quiet bay with calm waters for swimming and a huge reef perfect for snorkelers. If you fancy a short nature walk head high up into the cliffs to the Bat Cave, a huge cavernous boulder and enjoy some spectacular views of the Atlantic.
Cane Garden Bay
Located on the north side of Tortola, Cane Garden is a beautiful, bustling bay lined with bars and restaurants. A wonderful anchorage with a dinghy dock allowing easy access to the beach. A great spot for watersports and swimming. Check out the age old rum distillery still in working order and try a selection of shots! There is evening entertainment with live music at both Quitos and Pussers at Myetts. A popular hangout with some spectacular sunsets.
Jost Van Dyke
The smallest of the four main islands in the BVI. With a few great spots to visit from White Bay, Great Harbor and Diamond Cay.
You can spend a day at Diamond Cay with some fantastic snorkeling opportunities, a short little hike to the bubbly pool and an afternoon pit stop at either B-Line bar for a cocktail or Foxy’s Taboo for dinner.
Great Harbor is a large sheltered anchorage offering a range of bars and restaurants, a few little stores for provisioning and the customs office. Take a stroll to Foxy’s where you may find him strumming his guitar or telling a story or two. They serve up lunch and dinner, have a BBQ every Friday and Saturday night and host a range of events from the ‘Catfight’ to the biggest New Years party in the BVI.
White Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in the BVI with a long stretch of white sand and turquoise blue waters. Lined with beach bars from Soggy Dollar to Hendo’s Hideout. This is the ideal daytime anchorage for catching a tan, swimming, daytime partying and some spectacular people watching.
A tiny uninhabited island located off the southeast coast of Jost Van Dyke. Now a National Park and protected wildlife sanctuary, the island boasts a beautiful white sandy beach, a nature trail and some fantastic snorkeling. A wonderful spot for a daytime anchorage.
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If you are looking for a dream sailing holiday and a fantastic experience on the water, this vacation is a must! Whether you are a competent sailor renting a bareboat, or going all out and hiring your very own captain and chef who will guide you to all the hotspots and serve your every need making you feel like a million dollars!